Parenting Children with LD: From One Parent to Another
Part 1 of a Series Written by Margo Taylor Specifically for Parents
I can remember the terrible fights that would erupt on those days that the kids just would not cooperate doing their therapy homework. It could take us an hour or more to do what should have taken 15 minutes. I’d get angry and I’d let them know it. The anger stemmed from frustration because I knew how much that homework meant to their becoming successful students. But my anger only made them dig their heels in further. They became more and more defeated and unwilling to work. Finally, I came up with a plan.
The minute the struggle began to rear its ugly head, I’d calmly (outwardly) tell that child that when he was ready to work, I’d be glad to come back. but in the meantime, I had lots of things to do. They were also told, that until the therapy homework was finished, there would be no TV, no phone calls, no accepting last minute invitations. Then I’d patiently leave the room.
Usually after 15 to 30 minutes they’d come find me and say that they were ready to try again. Of course, I didn’t drop what I was doing – I’d finish it so they had to wait a bit longer. If the battles began to form again, I’d just repeat my action. After that, I never had more than the occasional flare up. They knew the rules and saw that I was firm about them, but not angry.
Consistency, Self-Esteem & Rewards
One area I managed to get right from the beginning was consistency. There was never a doubt in my children’s mind that even when we traveled the Blue Book, puzzles, and all therapy homework went with us – except, there was no Rhythmic Writing!
I also discovered booklets called Mind Benders that were designed to cultivate critical thinking skills. I bought the first booklet, below my kids’ skill levels so they would find it fun and be successful. They also became familiar with how they worked. Then I would increase the difficulty level until they felt challenged but not a failure. I was always on the lookout for ways to strengthen their particular weaknesses in a fun way.
I knew that my kids needed something that they could do better than most of their friends. Clark started guitar lessons and Rob started drum lessons. I would give them a star each day that they practiced for 15 minutes. If they practiced for 30 minutes, they got 2 stars. When they had 30 stars, I would take them out to Dairy Queen for any desert of their choosing – banana splits were most popular. But, after a while, as their skills improved, they didn’t need the stars and continued to play their instruments with enjoyment to this day. I would urge you as parents to keep trying different things whether it’s a musical instrument, a sport, or whatever, that they like and can develop a high skill doing. It does worlds for their self-esteem.
Attitude is everything. We choose our attitudes and our children pick up on them. Attitudes are often non-verbal or indirect in nature. You need to give honest assessment to how you feel about your child having a learning disability. Until you have an honest evaluation of your feelings, you can’t help your child have positive feelings. You can’t hide how you truly feel – they’ll figure it out. From the beginning I talked openly and without embarrassment about my children’s learning disability with them and others. I was sensitive to their feelings when discussing it with others, but I never wanted them to think it was something of which to be ashamed. They also would have questions about why they were the way they were – usually as I tucked them in for the night and prayer time. I would explain that they had a problem learning certain types of information and so you take lessons to learn how to overcome these problems – just like people who have weak muscles must exercise.
Dealing with “Why”
I used to tell myself that God had made them the way they were and I was to trust Him. I’ve known others who think God made them that way and are angry with God for doing it. However, I believe my children have learning disabilities because we live in an imperfect and decaying world. I don’t think God created my children with learning disabilities, but I do believe that God filtered that part of my children through His love and allowed it.
All of us have stayed awake at night talking about our child and his struggles and what we can do to help. You may have asked yourself, “Why?” My answer to this daunting question is “because you were chosen by God to be the parent and advocate for that child – a very hard and difficult assignment, which God knew you could handle (and needed to handle).” As parents, we must realize that we can’t get our significance from our child – but only from God. You have children for what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
To be continued … Read Part 2